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Sense of Place

The Hotel at Kirkwood Center at Kirkwood Community College

Learning by doing
University Business, Oct 2010

More than 300 students from five Kirkwood Community College (Iowa) programs study in state-of-the-art kitchens and classrooms, working alongside a 70-person professional staff.

  • FUNCTION: 71-room, four-story hotel with six suites; facilities for banquets, conferences, and meetings; and a full-service restaurant
  • CHALLENGE: Kirkwood's Hospitality Arts students ran a campus restaurant, serving lunch four days a week, but a set menu and identical tables and chairs limited their experience, explains Tom Kaldenberg, executive director of facilities. Hotel management students had difficulty finding good internships within high-class hotel operations. Located in an area of Cedar Rapids close to the airport, the main campus had no major hotels in the immediate vicinity. This didn't seem adequate for a League for Innovation school with students from all over the United States and the world.

The hotel's dining areas provide students with the opportunity to work under various event-type and style scenarios.

With a new conference center nearing completion, in 2006 the president's cabinet team discussed adding a hotel and culinary complex to complement those services. By the time the conference center opened in 2007, plans were underway to make the complex a reality. Designs were laid out in early 2008 and construction began by end of summer that year.

  • SOLUTION: "We went for a four-star -level hotel," Kaldenberg says of the project, which added 107,000 square feet to the existing 43,000-square-foot conference center. The waiting list to get into the hospitality arts programs has grown from a few months to a year or more. People are "just knocked over" by the building's beauty, which chandeliers and ceramic tile add to, he says. "It's hip-urban-trendy." The restaurant has a variety of table sizes, configurations, and rooms.

As an engineer, he likes the mechanical systems best. The project was designed to meet LEED Silver standards, and its energy system should save about $140,000 per year over a "to-code baseline" system. One example is the system controlling guest rooms. If empty, the temperature remains at 78 degrees in summer or 64 degrees in winter. Only when someone checks in does the HVAC turn on to reach a comfortable 72 degrees. When guests leave the room with lights or TV on, the system detects that and will adjust accordingly. Kaldenberg is also proud of the basement ice storage system. Ice produced at night cools the building the next day.

As for the students, they can learn daily from the team of professionals in hotel management, guest relations, and culinary arts. At their fingertips, they have the largest comprehensive teaching hotel at any community college in the country.

  • COST: $30 million, funded through revenue bonds
  • COMPLETED: Summer 2010
  • PROJECT TEAM: Design Engineers; OPN Architects (Cedar Rapids)